Ah yes, the day I said goodbye to my tatas. What a day. I’ve never had surgery before, so I was a little anxious about going under anesthetic, and also about waking up with a permanently altered body… that too.
I arrived at the hospital around 6am, with my husband, and was ready to take the first step in fighting my cancer. Let’s do this. One step at a time, they prepared me. I had to have a suspicious lymph node biopsied at the same time so I stopped in nuclear medicine first to be injected with two solutions, which would help them find that specific lymph node and if there were any more. My IV was put in, and I waited for my turn in the OR.
I was visited by my surgeons ahead of time
My surgeons visited ahead of time, and it all felt pretty casual. And I tend to make a lot of jokes when I’m nervous… so I was literally making my doctors laugh, my husband, nurses… it felt good and kept me calm. Once it was my turn they led me to the operating room and I walked in and sat up on the table. I had two main surgeons – the general surgeon was responsible for the bilateral mastectomy (double mastectomy) and removing the cancer, and my plastic surgeon was responsible for the first phase of my reconstruction process.
My plastic surgeon made the marks on my chest, and my general surgeon, nurses and the anaesthesiologist were bustling around me in preparation for about a three hour surgery. Laying back on the table, and the next thing I knew I was out.
I woke up from surgery in the most amount of pain I could ever imagine. Like ever. I vividly remember thinking that I’d give anything to give birth to a basketball because at least it would take my attention off the pain I was feeling in my chest. Something had to be wrong, why was I feeling all this, why weren’t they giving me more painkillers! It was next level. The nurses were working on bringing my pain level down before they’d send my out of post operative recovery to a room. The important thing was that the surgery was over, this part of my journey was over.
The general surgeon successfully removed both of my breasts
The general surgeon successfully removed both of my breasts. That held both of the confirmed tumours in my right breast, and two other groups of ‘questionable’ cells. I knew that some lymph nodes ended up being removed entirely. But it wasn’t until two days later that I learned it was a total of 6 lymph nodes. Aand it would be almost 14 days before I learned that only one of my lymph nodes tested positive for isolated tumor cells. It was not enough to consider it fully spread to my lymph system. Which means the timing was critical, and we got it before it spread any further.
My official diagnosis would be Stage 2, HER2+ Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Category 3.
Radiation treatment was inevitable. Which can permanently alter any immediate reconstruction effort, so my surgeon implanted a tissue expander on my right side, and a permanent gel implant in my left side. An expander is basically a temporary fluid-filled bag with a port in it. Which means a needle can be inserted into the implant through the port to add liquid or have liquid removed during the course of radiation. In anticipation of skin and tissue changes. This means that leading up to radiation the fluid will be added to make the right side bigger by expanding the skin. And then during the course of radiation the fluid will be removed as needed. In order to save the skin and tissue from getting too thin as it retracts (and risking the implant becoming exposed through the skin, or failing in another way), and the expander, in theory. Will end up the same size as the left in preparation for the next surgery. Science is so cool.